WriteCheck gets it wrong (again)

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The latest entry on the WriteCheck blog, 3 Ways to Avoid Plagiarism – Summary, Paraphrase and Quote includes a teaching video and the transcript of the spoken text.

It’s an interesting piece; I’m not sure how useful the video would be as a teaching tool or as a learning tool. There are too many holes in it.

Again and again, in the video and in the text, we are told:

Avoiding plagiarism is pretty simple because there are only 3 ways to borrow information, so you only need to know the requirements for these three techniques, and you should have it.  The three ways to save yourself from plagiarizing are summary, paraphrase and quote.

And that’s just plain wrong.

The “three ways to save yourself from plagiarizing” surely are

1> Cite your source/s.
2> Cite your source/s.
3> indicate (quotation marks or indentation) when you use someone else’s exact words, and cite your sources.

“Summary, paraphrase and quote” are three ways to use other people’s words and works, but of themselves they are not enough. And yes, towards the end of the video and the transcript, there is mention of citation, but it seems thrown in as an afterthought.  The before-thought is the stress on borrowing. In the segment on paraphrase, for instance, we are shown a paraphrase of text – and not a citation in sight (as illustrated).

But then again, I can’t help feeling that the emphasis is wrong.  “Avoiding plagiarism” should not be the main object of the exercise. What writers are – or should be – trying to do is to use other people’s words and work within their own, to support their own thoughts and ideas and arguments.  Take away the fear of getting it wrong, teach and practise and do what is right – honest use of other people’s work – that is the key.

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